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LCV Calls Upon Rep. Heather Wilson to Return Remaining $38,000 From Indicted Rep. DeLay

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Chuck Porcari, (202) 785-8683; Mark Sokolove, (202) 785-8683 September 30, 2005  

WASHINGTON, DC - Today's USA Today reports that Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) has said she will return the $10,000 she received from indicted Rep. Tom DeLay's political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC) for the 2006 election cycle. Yet, she isn't returning nearly $38,000 she has received since 1998 from DeLay, also according to USA Today.  The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) today called upon Rep. Wilson to return all of the 'tainted' money she has received from Rep. DeLay.

"Rep. Wilson is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of her constituents by returning only part of the tainted money she received from one of the most ethically challenged members of Congress in history," said LCV President Deb Callahan.  "Rep. Wilson ought to come clean and return all of the money.  If she's only going to return the recent money and not the contributions from past years, then she's just interested in publicity stunts."

Yesterday, LCV re-released it's "Tom's Tainted Team" report (http://www.lcv.org/images/client/pdfs/Toms_Tainted_Team_092805.pdf) of ten members of Congress who are financially beholden to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), and called upon each of them, including Representative Wilson (R-NM), to return campaign funds given to them by Representative DeLay until his legal issues involving alleged illegal campaign finance practices are resolved.  According to Federal Elections Commission data, Rep. Wilson has received a total $46,959 in campaign contributions from DeLay's ARMPAC since 1998 and $1,000 from his personal campaign account.

Each of the ten members of "Tom's Tainted Team" earned the designation by exercising remarkably bad policy judgments, starting with their votes for a special interest provision in the original House energy bill to protect the makers and refiners of the dangerous chemical, MTBE from pollution liability.  They cast these votes despite the fact that each represents districts and states with drinking water supplies contaminated by MTBE and pending lawsuits against the MTBE polluters.  Many of the largest MTBE manufacturers are based either in or near Rep. DeLay's district and he is one of the top recipients of campaign contributions from the MTBE interests, receiving nearly $200,000 in the 2004 cycle alone.

These members also took campaign cash from the oil and gas industries that knowingly manufactured and sold this defective product while at the same time taking at least $20,000 dollars in contributions from the Political Action Committee (ARMPAC) of Congress' biggest MTBE Champion, Rep. Tom DeLay.  Adding insult to injury, all 10 of these members also turned a blind eye to Rep. DeLay's ethics issues by voting in January to change House Ethics Rules to help shield DeLay from investigations. 

To view the full report, click here.

Attached is the USA Today news story about Rep. Heather Wilson's contributions from Rep. DeLay:

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Republicans may return DeLay's PAC funds
By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - At least two Republicans in the House of Representatives say they will return money to Rep. Tom DeLay's political action committee now that the former majority leader has been indicted for allegedly conspiring to violate Texas campaign fundraising laws.

Reps. Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire and Heather Wilson of New Mexico said they would return contributions from Americans for a Republican Majority, the political action committee DeLay started to help elect GOP candidates to Congress. Known as ARMPAC, it is separate from Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC, which is at the center of the charge against DeLay.

ARMPAC, which has not been charged with wrongdoing, has given nearly $3.5 million to House and Senate candidates since 1998, according to the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign cash. It has contributed $250,000 to candidates running for re-election next year.

Bradley, in his second term, was the first to renounce DeLay's money. He said he's returning $15,000 contributed in 2002 and 2004 to "remove any questions that may arise about contributions."

Wilson's campaign committee will give back $10,000 contributed for her 2006 campaign. She isn't returning nearly $38,000 she's received since 1998.

Most other House Republicans are watching polls on DeLay very carefully, said Norm Ornstein, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute. "They are all nervous as hell and don't want to break ranks - yet," he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said DeLay's indictment was the latest example of a GOP "culture of corruption."

She and other Democrats hope DeLay's legal problems, a federal investigation into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's stock sale and President Bush's sagging poll numbers will combine into a perfect storm to help them regain control of Congress.

Within hours of DeLay's indictment, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a 2006 fundraising e-mail about it. The National Republican Congressional Committee accused Democrats of hypocrisy, noting that DCCC head Rahm Emanuel of Illinois said he wouldn't return $5,000 in political contributions from Chicago lawyer Joseph Cari unless he pleaded guilty to extortion. Cari, a former party finance director, pleaded guilty Sept. 14 of participating in a scheme to direct state pension money to businesses in exchange for campaign cash. Emanuel said he gave the $5,000 to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Republicans "have to answer to their voters for why they think that Tom DeLay's contributions are so important that they refused to part with them," DCCC spokesman Bill Burton said.

Republican strategist Frank Luntz reminded a group of House members Thursday, "You owe (DeLay) your majority. He's where he is today because he sacrificed himself to gain those extra seats."

Luntz said, "You dance with the one that brought you," adding that making refunds is "ridiculous."

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, a New York moderate, received $5,000 last year to beat a conservative primary challenger. "I haven't given it a second thought," he said about giving the money back. "It was legally raised and legally dispensed."

"Everyone has to do what they think is best for their political future," said Rep. Henry Bonilla, a Texan who's received nearly $24,000 since 1994. "If you're afraid of keeping Tom DeLay's PAC money, you're probably afraid of your own shadow."

It's unclear whether DeLay's indictment will taint Republicans next year. A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll in April found that 38% had an unfavorable opinion about DeLay. But nearly as many, 35%, had never heard of him or had no opinion of the then-majority leader.

Voters don't need to know who DeLay is for Democrats to make gains in 2006, Dartmouth University political scientist Linda Fowler said. "The only message they need to know is that their member of Congress took money from somebody who's in trouble legally."

Contributing: Jill Lawrence and Richard Wolf 



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